On 13 May 2017, Father Alexis Raphael participated in a day retreat in Birmingham for members and friends of ‘Single Consecrated Life’, an Anglican network of solitaries. He met solitary monastics from a variety of traditions, from Evangelical to Anglo-Catholic, where participants shared the stories of their respective call to the solitary life. Developments in the religious life in the UK were discussed and there was a talk on Christian Healing given by Sister Beverly SCL. There was a vegetarian lunch and plenty of opportunities to meet other solitaries. Father Alexis felt encouraged that so many people of different ages, traditions and walks of life are embracing the solitary call in Britain today and was also pleased to learn of an increase in interest in the solitary vocation has been reported.
On Sunday, 29 May 2017– following the Divine Liturgy at The British Orthodox London Mission of St. Thomas the Apostle at Charlton – Abba Seraphim, assisted by Archdeacon James and Subdeacon Athanasius Hall, baptised and chrismated eleven-week-old Alexander Peter Nicholas Sidoli of Rotherhithe, whose godparents had travelled from Wales and Shropshire to make their vows on his behalf. Alexander, whose ancestry is a mixture of Italian Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox, also received his first communion and Abba Seraphim spoke of the Orthodox tradition of infants receiving chrismation (or confirmation) at the same time as baptism, which meant that they become full church members from the outset and are able to enjoy the blessing of Holy Communion from their childhood to enable them to grow spiritually, as well as physically, in their formative years.
Sunday, 9 July 2017 was the fortieth anniversary of Abba Seraphim’s episcopal consecration, which took place at Blackheath in 1977. There was no special festivity planned, as Abba Seraphim felt it was more important for him to meet his regular Sunday obligations, rather than disrupt them for a celebration, but a special Thanksgiving Prayer was offered during the Divine Liturgy, which he celebrated at St. Alban’s Orthodox Church in Chatham, as well as prayers commemorating his late consecrators: Metropolitan Georgius of Glastonbury, Bishop Ignatius Peter of Priddy and Archbishop Iltud of Dol. Abba Seraphim was touched to receive many affectionate greetings and assurances of prayers from the British Isles as well as around the world and, after leaving Church, he and the other clergy were entertained to lunch nearby at the home of one of the Chatham congregation. Later, in the evening he and Archdeacon James were entertained to dinner by a long-standing friend of the Church. The attached pictures of four decades ago were located in the extensive British Orthodox church archives; whilst a special YouTube compilation of photos was posted online as a tribute by Egyptian friends of the British Orthodox Church.
The news of the appointment of The Revd Elizabeth (Liz) Newman, as Priest-in-Charge of the Charlton United Benefice (St. Thomas & St. Luke) was very welcome news. Not only has the British Orthodox Church worshipped at St. Thomas’s, Old Charlton, since May 1989, but Liz, who has been attached to the Anglican parish as a non-stipendiary priest for many years, is a much-loved and respected member of the local community. As former Chaplain to Blackheath Bluecoats School until its closure in 2014, she served on the staff as the same time as Archdeacon James Maskery. As Abba Seraphim was away from London for her induction at St. Thomas’s on 24 July, Subdeacon Athanasius Hall, represented the British Orthodox Church at the service, which was performed by Dr Woyin Karowei Dorgu, the newly appointed Bishop Suffragan of Woolwich and the Venerable Alastair Cutting, Archdeacon of Lewisham & Greenwich and conveyed greetings on behalf of the Orthodox Parish.
On 30 July 2017, at the Orthodox Church of Saint Mark and Saint Hubert in Cusworth Village, Doncaster, during the Sunday morning Liturgy, Abba Seraphim ordained Subdeacon Athanasius Hall to the diaconate and Archdeacon James Maskery to the Sacred Priesthood. Abba Seraphim noted that by comparison with Father David and himself they represented a new generation of ministry in the church.
They will both be attached to the staff of the Church Secretariat, although Father James will also have responsibility for the Charlton Parish. However, they will exercise more than a London-based ministry as they both travel with and transport Abba Seraphim to service in other congregations, notably Bournemouth, Chatham and Babingley.
Messages of greeting were received from friends from far away and, in addition to the local Cusworth congregation, some travelled from Sussex, Manchester and mainland China to attend the ordination. Deacon Athanasius’s wife, Rachel, who is currently visiting her family in the Philippines, made a point of attending their local Catholic Church to coincide with the ordinations at Cusworth, so that they could be united in prayer.